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Former Followers of Duggar's Religion Speak out on 'Culture of Abuse'

Multiple former followers of the same religious group that the Duggars belongs to are now speaking out and saying it encourages "a culture of abuse."

The Duggar family are known followers of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which is a non-denominational religious organization that was founded by a man named Bill Gothard.

In 2014, Gothard was accused of sexual assault, but the Duggars have remained a part of his conferences and teachings. Several women who previously belonged to the group recently talked to In Touch about their experiences, with one named Emily saying, "Women are second-class citizens. There's no doubt about it."

"The adults were trapped in a stressful situation and often took it out on the kids," Emily added. "There were a lot of kids that were abused and no one did anything."

Another, Elisabeth Feehan, recalled, "Behind the facade was an extremely strict, controlling, messy situation."

"Behind closed doors there was a raging father who beat his children, a controlling woman, sexual deviance, and multiple suicide attempts from multiple children including myself. Between the Korean need for perfection and ATI’s twisted views on appearing perfect, it weighed heavily on my siblings and I," Feehan continued.

After leaving the Institute in Basic Life Principles, Feehan says that she was diagnosed with PTSD.

"I can’t work more than four hours before I lose functionality. I cry for no reason; I have nightmares about the abuse and wake up screaming; I get stuck in flashbacks and see the people around me as the abusers I grew up with... I cower in fear when people are angry around me. Sometimes I burst into tears because of a trigger I didn’t even know was a trigger," Feehan added.

A woman identified only as Jennifer described her time in the Institute in Basic Life Principles as feeling "like this really cool thing that you got to do and you felt really holy and godly, like you’re special, like you’re in a different level of Christianity," but she adds, "...Looking back, a lot of the teachings were just straight-up strange."

Joy Tremont reflected on her past by revealing, "I couldn’t do what I wanted to do unless I had parental permission. I remember being petrified of who my father would choose to be my husband. I remember one guy coming over frequently and thinking, ‘Oh my god, do I have to marry him? Oh, the horror.’ Or being frightened that whoever I married would make me wear skirts the rest of my life. It was like being boxed in."

Finally, Rebecca Ishum, a blogger who was in the Institute in Basic Life Principles as a teen, said that the group "brainwashed" her.

"I was conditioned to believe anything that anyone in authority told me without question," Ishum continued. "Because of that, I internalized all of the teachings and brought them back home with me."

"So for example, there are a lot of physical requirements with IBLP. The physical requirements weren't enforced to that degree at home (I wore shorts as a kid), but by the time I got home from my time in the training center, I was wearing skirts all of the time because I had been told that I was immodest otherwise, and I didn't want to cause myself to be raped. There is a lot of victim and women-blaming in that cult," she concluded.